Although it’s still summer, now is the time to think about fall feed. Exceptionally hot and dry weather this season has really put the pinch on pastures and stored feed. To fill in the gaps, consider planting cool season annuals. These annual forages can provide grazing options into late fall and/or can be harvested for storage. Now is the perfect time to plant these forages, giving them ample time to establish and produce plenty of biomass before the hard frosts arrive.
Annual ryegrass is a fantastic fall forage. It establishes quickly and is very palatable for grazing. Annual ryegrass can produce about 0.5 ton of dry matter per acre in our region if sown by late August. The seed is typically quite inexpensive compared to winter grains or brassicas making it a very affordable way to boost fall grazing and/or feed stores. Annual ryegrass can be drilled at a rate of 20 to 30 pounds per acre at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch.
Winter grains are also great options for fall forage. Winter triticale, wheat, and rye can produce large quantities of biomass in the fall prior to going into dormancy for the winter. They can also provide early spring forage that can be harvested prior to planting corn or soybeans. Oats are another annual forage option — they can also be planted in the fall but will winterkill in our region.
Grains may be seeded with a grain drill into a well prepared seed bed or seeded with a no-till drill at a rate of 125 to 150 pounds at a depth of about 1 inch. Plant these winter grains as early as possible to maximize fall forage production. Grains planted later than mid-September will not yield much, if any, forage this fall. For more information on managing winter grains for forage see: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/managing-cereal-grains-for-forage.pdf.
Forage brassicas–such as turnips, kales, and radishes–can provide plenty of very high quality fall forage. They may be seeded alone or in combination with other annuals. Yields of 1500 to 2000 pounds of dry matter per acre can be attained.
Brassicas are highly digestible and therefore need to be grazed with caution to avoid bloating. Animals should only be allowed to graze brassicas for short periods of time and given adequate fiber.
Brassicas can be drilled at a rate of about 6 pounds per acre at a depth of ¼ to ½ inch.
For More Info
For more information on using cool season forages, see our latest reports on:
- Forage brassicas: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/2015-Forage-Brassica.pdf and
- Cool season mixtures: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/2015-Cool-Season-Annuals.pdf.